The National Transportation Safety Board has released its initial report about what happened during the fatal duck boat accident in Branson, Missouri last week. The report includes a detailed timeline of the events of the evening, much of which is made possible from onboard cameras that recorded the conditions outside (and the passengers inside).
Seventeen people were killed and some were critically injured when a duck boat owned by Ride the Ducks capsized due to a sudden storm. The winds reached 65 mph within minutes, which kept the boat from heading back to shore. Duck boats are known for sinking too quickly for passengers to escape—similar fatal duck boat accidents have occurred since 1999. One Ride the Ducks inspection actually revealed some serious hazards only months ago.
According to their report, the captain of the boat had checked weather reports and covered safety procedures with the passengers prior to entering the water. The captain's briefing included "the location of emergency exits as well as the location of the life jackets." The captain then showed passengers how to use the life jackets.
The boat entered the water at around 6:55 PM—nearly 30 minutes after the National Weather Service issued a thunderstorm warning for the area.
No Mention of the Life Jacket Allegations
The report did not mention any details about the allegations made against the captain by one of the passengers—an Indianapolis woman who lost nine family members when the duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake.
According to one of the survivors, the captain of the vessel told the passengers that they wouldn't need the life jackets. He allegedly then failed to tell the passengers to put on life jackets, even as the waters were getting rougher. While the NTSB mentioned the safety briefing, nothing was noted about whether the captain said this (or if the trip recording included it).
The woman who made the allegations said that the life jackets would still be aboard the boat because no one was wearing them. That much is true. The duck boat was recovered one week ago with the life jackets hanging from the canopy.
Now, duck boat accident lawyers want to have the vessels banned for tourism purposes. The vessels were designed during World War II and are virtually unchanged from 70 years ago.
The NTSB made sure to note that their report is a preliminary list of findings. It offers no analysis or recommendations—as a result, we cannot take any results as final. However, our duck boat lawyers are glad to see survivors get initial answers about what happened to their families and why this tragedy unfolded the way it did.